The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

MorPhun 4/29 - Rafael Abramovitz (MIT)

Speaker: Rafael Abramovitz (MIT)
Title: Person and predication in Koryak
Time: Wednesday, April 29th, 5pm – 6:30pm

Abstract: Linguists across theoretical persuasions have noted that person has a more limited distribution of agreement possibilities than number and gender. Baker (2008) proposes that this has a universal structural explanation: the subject of adjectival or nominal predication, he argues, does not merge directly with an adjectival or nominal head, but instead with a higher head Pred(icate). The lack of person agreement on non-verbs emerges when that structural assumption is combined with the Structural Condition on Person Agreement (SCOPA), which bans 1/2 person agreement on a head if the bearer of those features does not merge with that head. In this paper, I present novel data from Koryak (Chukotko-Kamchatkan), which I argue to be the most plausible attested counterexample to SCOPA, as nouns (1) and adjectives (2) (among others) in predicative position do show covarying person morphology.

(1) (ɣəmmo) čawčəva-jɣəm
‘I am a Koryak.’

(2) (ɣəčči) n-ə-mejŋ-iɣi
‘You are big.’

However, I will argue that in Koryak, Pred itself bears uninterpretable phi-features, and once it has agreed with the subject of predication, these features spread to Pred’s complement by concord, thus defusing a possible counterexample to Baker’s theory.